Saturday, October 29, 2011

2011 Construction Update

Our cows, looking longly at the new construction...their new home!
We have completed the dirt work on our new barn! (see the video below for more about that).  We have also finished the water lines for the barn.  We will have 6 water tanks for our cows and hydrants for the sprinklers.  Be sure to check out our FaceBook Page to see more pictures!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Our Final Project for 2011...the BIG Project!

Well, our hoop jumping and waiting are over!  Last week on Monday we received word that we had been approved by the Small Business Administration (SBA) for our loan for our final project for 2011, the BIG project...our new barn!!!!  Before I start posting video and pictures from the construction, I thought I had better start at the beginning with the plan and the reasons why we are building a new barn. 
Below you can see a picture of our cows resting comfortably in our current barn.  We built that barn in 2005, and have been generally pleased with how our cows are doing in there, but we know they deserve better.  This barn is a bedded pack barn, which is a "one size fits all" type of a barn.  Our cows had an enormous amount of flexibility to move around where they would want, but with that flexibility came some challenges.  They were at risk of stepping on each other, laying in manure (causing them to get infections and just be dirty) and at risk of getting infections in their feet.  All of these challenges were manageable, but we knew we could do better.  The cows are comfortable, and that's hard to the new barn!

Our new barn will be a free stall barn, which will allow us to have designated areas (beds) for each cow, preventing them from laying in manure, stepping on each other, and fighting for their favorite spot.  These beds will be bedded with sand instead of saw dust.  Since sand is inorganic, bacteria have a hard time growing, thereby helping us to maintain quality milk from healthy cows.  The sand also gives traction to the cows walking on concrete.  Mature cows will be in one pen and new heifers/smaller cows will be in another pen.  We are actually not adding cows, contrary to the rumors flying around, but making more space for our growing herd.  The entire milking herd will be moving to the new barn once it's completed.  But have no fear, we are still going to be using our 2005 barn...just with a new purpose....a dry cow/fresh cow/special needs barn! 

For the past 5 years we have been "housing" our dry cows (pregnant cows, right before calving) outdoors, with no shed.  The have shade in the summer and wind breaks in the winter, and that's been working for us, but it takes LOTS of hard work on our part to make sure that these important animals on our farm get the best care possible.  When we move the milking herd out of the 2005 barn we will move the dry cows and pregnant heifers into the pack barn.  We plan on leaving our half of the pack barn as a pack, bedded with dry corn leaves and stalks.  These pens will allows us to have our dry cows indoors!  They will be able to enjoy shelter from the Minnesota weather (mainly the winters that are the hardest!) as well as deliver their calves in more comfortable facility.  In the case that a cow needs help delivering her calf, we will now have facilities that will make that care possible.  I speak from experience, that it's not fun trying to chase a cow that's calving around in a big yard, let alone in a muddy or snowy yard!  It's this part of the project that makes us the most excited!  Giving better care to my pregnant cows makes me so thrilled!  They are tough girls, and handled the outdoors just fine, but on those wet and snowy days, I really felt for them. 

This is a big project, but financially we aren't going to be spending any more per month than we are now.  So how's that work???  Well, when we built our pack barn in 2005 the cost of saw dust was less than 50% than what it is now.  Currently we spend enough each month on saw dust bedding for the pack barn, that we have enough money to cover the loan payments and the cost of sand bedding!  We are confident these changes will help us to increase the quality of care that our cows get each day, and to us, that means more than any financial benefit.  Peace of mind, knowing our cows rest safely in a new barn, clean & priceless!!!
Our cows resting comfortably in our current barn,
 but we hope they'll be even more comfortable
in the new barn!

The PLAN...including the next steps for the Spring 2012.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Never Marry a Dairy Farmer..ignored advice from a friend

A couple weekends ago, my dear friend wed her best friend.  As a gift to them, I wrote some thoughts on marrying a dairy farmer, as this friend once advised to avoid dairy farmers.  Turns out she ignored her own advice too!  So, here's some thoughts on the great gifts of dairy farmers!

Never Marry a Dairy Farmer

A wise friend once advised me, “Never marry a dairy farmer”. Apparently she thought that having been raised on a dairy farm I would have been observant enough to notice the amount of dedication required from a wife married to a dairy farmer when watching my parents. But….I missed the message and decided to follow my heart. I wanted to be with my best friend for the rest of my life, regardless of his profession. Contrary to the advice of my dear friend, there are some great advantages to being married to a dairy farmer!

Lo and behold, a few years later this very same friend decided to also ignore her own advice and today….she also married her dairy farmer!!!! She too will learn the joys and tribulations of being married to a man dedicated to his farm and cows. But more than anything, I believe she’s entering into a relationship that is stronger than any other married couple’s. For a farming husband and wife have a bond built to withstand anything that life, nature and the world can throw at it, that is if they continue to love and care for each other.

Dairy farmers have tender hearts, open and willing to care for the most fragile of God’s creation. They have a deep dedication to everything that they do in life. They have a willingness to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work required to see a project (or relationship) through. They never give up. They have an appreciation for the simple, precious moments in life; riding in the tractor together, sunsets bringing the cows home, milking/working together, enjoying a star-lit night in late summer, the smells of fresh rain on spring soils, and bringing in the fall harvest. There are so many great moments to share with each other both at the farm and in life.

Today I wish my dear friend and her special dairy farmer the very best! Together they will make a great team for life. I hope that they can find joy, discover the strength to get through the toughest times in life together, and have a love and bond that grows stronger through the years. May they realize humor on their journey and continue to make each other laugh. May they say to each other years from now, surrounded by family and friends on their 50th Anniversary, that they did indeed, “Marry their best friend” so many years ago.

God Bless You Both!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Jumping through Hoops

Well, it's been another series of crazy weeks for us at the farm.  Beside the usual hussel and bussel of fall field work and running a dairy farm...we've been working hard on pushing forward our fall project for our cows.  Since we are young, starting dairy farmers, we have limited resources to use as collateral for the bank.  As a solution to help us better our farm, our banker suggested working with a branch of the government to secure financing for the riskiest portion of our barn project.  Sounds like a good plan, BUT just when we thought we met the criteria of the government agency, we only learn we have more hoops to jump through.  First, it was the need of an appraisal of our current farm, then it was forms that we had signed in early September that were now outdated and needed to be resigned, and now we needed to get "official" quotes for ALL work scheduled to be done on our barn project!  Oh good grief! 
If you've ever built anything, you know timing is everything and the longer this process continues, the farther into the fall we get, thereby increasing the risk of...oh that dreaded "s" word, SNOW!  We desperately need to make these changes to our farm for the betterment of our cows, so we can only hope that we are done jumping through hoops~!